Service centre chain Westside Petroleum has been fined for underpaying its staff by as much as $1000 a month at 12 petrol stations across regional NSW and Victoria.
The Fair Work Ombudsman said it had secured $57,000 in penalties against Westside and its management after the chain was found to have paid unlawfully low, flat rates to 22 employees for periods between July 2015 and May 2016.
The company withheld a total $62,393 from staff, ranging from $347 to $7772 during the period, with four of the employees aged just 19 at the time.
Federal Circuit Court judge Robert Cameron found that the underpayments were deliberate and said they were “not insignificant”, with some employees underpaid approximately $1000 per month.
Two affected workers were visa holders with one employee on a 489 regional sponsored visa.
All employees have been back-paid in full.
Westside general manager Patrick Riad, company accountant Francesco Ieraci and area manager Shahzaib Khawaja had each been fined $4000, while Westside Petroleum Retail was penalised $45,000.
Addressing Westside Petroleum’s submission that it was rapidly expanding at the time, Judge Cameron said “the commercial imperative to seize new business opportunities can explain distraction from issues of compliance but it does not excuse it”.
“It is unacceptable that Westside Petroleum focussed on the growth of its business and failed to have proper regard to very basic employer obligations,” Judge Cameron said.
The underpayments occurred at petrol station at Adaminaby, Wagga Wagga, Finley, Gurley, Somerton, Temora, Tolland, Blayney, Glen Innes, Peak Hill and Cooma in NSW, and at Lismore in Victoria.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the matter serves as a warning to employers about paying flat rates rather than applying the relevant award.
“Any employer paying their staff with flat rates less than the relevant minimum rate faces enforcement action,” Ms Parker said.